Carl Froch left absolutely no doubt the second time around, blasting George Groves with a laser right hand in Round 8 to end their super middleweight championship fight and their rivalry on Saturday night at Wembley Stadium in London.
The bout, which was one of the most highly anticipated in British boxing history, came six months after the two men met in what was expected to be a nondescript affair last November.
Groves gave Froch fits in that fight, dropping him in the first round and beguiling him with speed and power before being controversially stopped in Round 9, prompting this past Saturday’s rematch in front of 80,000 fans.
But unlike the first fight, where Groves could make a very reasonable argument that he had been pulled out too soon by the referee, this verdict was clear, decisive and beyond dispute. In all the ways that matter, Groves was the winner of the first contest, but that score has now been settled.
Much of the discussion following the fight, which is sure to continue in the coming days, is certain to focus on where Froch goes next. But that’s dismissive of Groves, who despite losing to the pound-for-pound best British fighter in the sport today, remains a young gun capable of making noise in the super middleweight division.
The main question will be: How devastating is this knockout for his future career prospects?
The answer, at least in the very short form, is very.
This loss is certain to take a toll. You’d have to be someone who didn’t pay any attention to the hype surrounding this rematch to believe that Groves will walk away completely unscathed.
The real pound of flesh this is likely to take from him, aside from any lingering physical effects from Froch’s atomic bomb of a right hand, is mental.
The London-born fighter put so much of himself into this rematch. So much of his identity was wrapped around the idea that he was the prince, wrongfully denied the throne by the evil deeds of referee Howard Foster, who pulled him from the battle before he could stake his claim.
In many ways, then, Groves entered this rematch as the king in waiting—the Tommen to King Joffrey, just waiting for his brother to croak for you Game of Thrones fanatics out there—looking to bounce the champion, 10 years his senior, from the top and rise to the perch atop British boxing.
All hope of that ended on Saturday night. At least for the time being.
Groves walked to the ring like a man on the way to his coronation. He arrived into the arena on the top level of a double-decker bus, taking the time to pose for fan pictures during his epically long ring walk.
The ending for Groves was quick, brutal and decisive. The time it took for him to go from champion in waiting to afterthought was microseconds.
It all happened just that fast.
In the aftermath of Froch’s missile right hand, the felled challenger was left in a heap near the ropes, his left leg grotesquely bent under his body.
Referee Charlie Fitch didn’t even bother with a count, quickly noticing that Groves would’ve been a dead man walking even if he miraculously managed to beat the count of 10 and continue in the fight.
For Froch, the ending was nothing short of vindication.
The 36-year-old unified 168-pound champion was a tortured soul these past six months. Groves had occupied a large plot of free real estate in his head ever since that fateful November night in Manchester, and he clearly had a mental edge in the rivalry.
Froch went as far as seeking out Manchester United sports psychologist Chris Marshall to help him overcome Groves’ mind games and the mental strain from controversy.
Groves walked into Wembley Stadium promising a knockout, and the first few rounds of the fight played out as if Froch believed his pledge.
The “Cobra” was overly cautious, reluctant to let his hands go. He seemed nervous whenever Groves unleashed a right hand over the top of his guard, appearing almost like his confidence—Froch has always had a certain swagger about him—was failing him on this night.
Or perhaps he was waiting his foe out. Maybe he knew something we didn’t.
As the rounds progressed, Groves seemed to get increasingly fatigued, Froch’s body work zapping his power and activity at an alarming rate. And then, of course, the ending came.
Sweet, satisfying victory for one man.
The agony of defeat for the other.
And beneath that layer of emotion from both men lies the essential truth about this fight.
The first fight wreaked havoc on every facet of Froch’s professional life. It caused him to question himself, his abilities and, most importantly, whether or not he had found a brash younger man who was going to take his spot.
The answer to that question, at least right now and in the form of Groves, is an emphatic no.
He is now left to pick up the pieces.
The mental burden is likely to last even longer than any physical effects.
Nobody is saying Groves can’t or won’t be back. He’s been knocked down a few pegs, emphatically yes, and the road back is long indeed.